Fifteen or so years ago, Line6 released a bass that caught my interest. It was in their Variax line and claimed to be able to produce the sounds of a couple of dozen different basses, including workhorses like the Fender Precision (in models with ’round’ and ‘flat’ strings) and an upright acoustic bass. I did actually try one out and I thought it sounded pretty good. However, it only had four strings and wasn’t a patch on the playability of my Sei Flamboyant. I didn’t really need something that did a decent impression of the sound of lots of other basses and I was concerned that it would be a useless lump of wood if the electronics died and I couldn’t get it serviced. So, that was the one/many bass that got away.
It came to mind recently because I saw an in-depth review of the Variax bass posted on one of the channels I frequently watch. I’ll post a link below but I don’t think it was up to the normal standard of reviews on the channel. Lobster has an extensive collection of basses and none of the models quite stood up in direct comparison.
That said, all the models sounded a little quieter and psychoacoustics says louder = more good. I think the instrument would have been a good choice for someone playing in a setting like a function band. In the context of a live mix, I think it would have worked very well to capture the tones of many iconic lines but without needing to bring thousands of pounds worth of vintage instruments along.
It’s a shame they never let the bass line evolve alongside the guitar line. Above five years ago, I picked up a Variax JTV-59. You can turn all the modelling off and it still works as a very playable Les Paul type guitar. Meanwhile, I regularly play it at church and typically use 2-3 different models on a Sunday morning set (including, sometimes, the Gibson Les Paul model!). I still don’t really need lots of different bass sounds for any of the gigs I’ve played or can see myself playing anytime soon but I would be just a little bit interested if Line6 ever did come out with an update Variax bass, if they built it on a ‘worth the money’ chassis like a J type bass and then added the modelling (and Helix integration) on top.